Gleneagles Hotel head of bars, Michele Mariotti, tells us what's hot in the cocktail world

We discover the whisky-based drink that’s underrated and find out if mojitos are still cool

Published 17th May 2023
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

As head of bars at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Michele Mariotti, has arguably one of the top booze jobs in Scotland.

The award-winning Italian mixologist has been there since 2020, and brings experience from other venues including London’s The Savoy and Singapore's Mandarin Oriental. Now, he looks after the creation and development of drinks menus across the estate’s 11 food and beverage establishments, including The Century Bar, The American Bar and Auchterarder 70.

His signature cocktail is the reinvention of a classic martini which contains a blend of three bespoke gins, and he’s recently been involved in the five-star hotel’s listing of The Reach by The Macallan. This whisky is matured for 81 years, making it one of the oldest in the world, and it’s exclusively available at The Still Room.

We asked Mariotti about his job and what’s hot in the cocktail world.

What does your job involve?

It involves overseeing all the beverage-led programs across our estate, primarily focusing on the bars and the cocktail program. We have a plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from and ensuring that we have a diverse cocktail and beverage offering to cater for everyone is quite a task, but it’s one I love.

How have you changed the drinks offering since you started?

Quite a lot, to be fair. I was lucky to have the chance to re-develop pretty much every menu across the estate, and we launched two fully conceptualised menus since I joined. There’s the Book of Berries at The American Bar, which focuses on botanical berries, and the Glamorous and the Wild from the Century Bar menu. It focuses on accessible drinks that reflect the landscape around us.

How does Gleneagles cater to its guests' varying tastes?

We try to offer something for everyone. The Century Bar menu, for instance, is divided into four distinct sections that reflect the different moods and feelings people have when interacting with the bar. If they feel like having a rich and indulging cocktail, then the Relaxing Parlor section would be the best fit. If they fancy a light refreshing drink, the Lively Public House section would be best suited.

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What is the best selling drink/cocktail?

It depends on the bar, but Champagne cocktails do very well across the estate. In the American Bar, for example, we have a popular drink called Gooseberry, which is based on the gin and gooseberry wine sourced directly from Cairn O’ Mohr, a berry-wine producer based in Perthshire.

What's your personal favorite and is there anything you’d consider an underrated drink?

Asking a bartender what his favorite drink is, is like asking a parent which one is his favourite child. When it comes to drinks, I sincerely believe that there is no such thing as an overrated drink, as everyone should drink the cocktail they like most, but there are some hidden gems out there. For instance, I believe that whisky highballs (whisky and soda) are severely underrated. There are so many interesting sodas out there, from pine flavored to roasted pineapple, and they pair wonderfully with whisky.

What do guests from various parts of the world ask for?

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Usually when guests travel from overseas, they want something that is connected to our surroundings and unique to us. That is why we created the Gleneagles Glenturret, a partnership where we developed a unique whisky from the ground up that is only available here. This approachable and indulgent malt is perfect for a whisky-based cocktail and is a great nightcap on his own.

Have any drinks become unfashionable?

I believe some categories are slowly fading out. Mojitos used to be extremely popular a decade ago, but they are declining in popularity in favour of more timeless, classic drinks such as negronis and old fashioneds.

What are the top trends in the world of cocktails and are you adopting any of them?

Here at Gleneagles we like to travel to showcase the best we have to offer through a series of guest shifts across the world, where we take over a bar in another city and run a menu that is a representation of what we do here. This gives us the opportunity to exchange ideas with like-minded venues across the globe and improve our practices. Lately there has been a lot of interest in sustainability across the board, and this is something that we are spearheading with our bar program, especially at the American Bar with the Book of Berries.

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Any new ingredients/spirits we should look out for?

Some incredible distilleries here in Scotland are revolutionising the category. For instance, Thompson Bros in Dornoch, are creating incredible whiskies. Looking at Arbikie, north of St Andrews, they are re-introducing other cereals to the world of whisky, such as oats and rye, creating unique spirits that will surely revolutionise the category.

Do you drink every day or try to abstain?

I drink in moderation. Most days I taste a lot of spirits or cocktails, but I spit almost every time. I think tasting is crucial, but only a focused mind is capable of producing great drinks. Socially, I of course indulge in a drink, and I can have anything from wine to spirits. More often than not I also plan my holidays around new beverage releases; as I love to visit innovative winemakers and bars creating exceptional drinks.

Gleneagles has launched a Pursuits range of whisky, available at The Still Room in the hotel,

The Gooseberry cocktail

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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